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About the Brittany Region of France
La Bretagne – Brittany in English – is one of the most beautiful regions of France, with wild landscapes, historic cities, rich culture, and a strong identity. It is a region of tradition and character, where the stories of sailors meet the Celtic legends.
Brittany, in Western France, has a double face deeply rooted in both the land and the sea. Bathed by the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean, Brittany offers breathtaking coastal landscapes but it is also a land of medieval towns, mysterious rock alignments, and deep forests full of legends.
The region of Brittany is divided into 4 departments: Côtes-d’Armor, Finistère, Ille et Vilaine and Morbihan. The capital is Rennes.
Are you planning a trip to Brittany? Our list is of what to do in Brittany is far from exhaustive, but we give you the 10 essential sites to see absolutely if you come to visit Brittany for the first time.
Our goal? To make sure you love Brittany as much as us!
Best Things to See in Brittany, Western France
What to do in Brittany for one week or two? This is our list of the best things to do in Brittany, France. From coastal walks and Corsaire cities to impressive castles and deep forests, the Brittany Region is a myriad of landscapes and sites waiting to be discovered.
The Carnac Stones (Karnag)
The alignments of Carnac are located in Morbihan, in South Brittany. It is an exceptional site of megalithic alignments of more than 3.000 menhirs over more than 4 kilometers. These menhirs, erected between 6.000 and 2.000 AD, are found in 4 sites: Le Ménec, Kermario, Kerlascan, and Le Petit Ménec.
Take the time to wander around the stones and soak up the special atmosphere of the site: perhaps you will find the meaning of all these alignments!
Before leaving, check out the Kermario alignment, not far from Carnac, in Saint-Colomban: archaeologists have found along the coast the oldest forms of habitat, they are 300. 000 years old!
A Romantic Getaway to Dinan
Step back in time in picturesque Dinan! Overlooking the Rance River and surrounded by ramparts, the old medieval city of Dinan still keeps its half-timbered houses of the 15th century and its winding cobbled streets.
Visit the Clock Tower, the Basilica of Saint-Sauveur of Orient-Byzantine influence, and the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany. Then take the Jerzual street, the most famous street of Dinan, which goes down to the port on the Rance River. This is the perfect spot for a drink with beautiful river views.
The Pink Granite Brittany Coast
On the side of Perros-Guirec in the northwest of Côtes-d’Armor, the Brittany coast is dotted with rocks, cliffs, and coves in pink granite.
The best way to discover this beautiful coast is by taking the 4 km section of the Sentier des Douaniers hike that runs along the coast from the chic seaside resort of Perros-Guirec to the village of Ploumanac’h. En route, be amazed by the rough sea, the multitude of uninhabited islets, and the reliefs of pink granite rocks.
When you reach the village of Ploumanac’h, voted the most beautiful village of France in 2015, spend some time on its beautiful and small sandy beach: when the tide is low, it is like walking over the moon.
Crozon Peninsula – the Caribbean in Western France
Who needs to travel far away with such beautiful landscapes in Western France?
Forming a gigantic cross in the sea, the peninsula of Crozon (Presqu’ile de Crozon) offers a condensed of Brittany. Its landscapes alternate spectacular cliffs, heather moors, and turquoise waters. As you can see, these Brittany beaches have nothing to envy to the Caribbean beaches, except perhaps the temperature of the water!
Crozon is best explored from the sea, so you can see Crozon’s sandstone walls and rocky overhangs. Boats leave from the pretty ports of Camaret or Morgat.
The Castles of Brittany
The Castles in Brittany don’t look like the castles of France we all have in mind but they are also very beautiful! Brittany is full of castles and fortresses, located on the coast but also inland.
Discover the history of Brittany – independent of the kingdom of France until 1532 – by visiting its most beautiful castles, full of legends. Some castles in Brittany even come with a phantom in the closet.
The list of most beautiful châteaux in Brittany includes Château de Rohan, Château de Kerjean, Château de Fougères, Château de Josselin or Château de Susscinio but there are many more!
The Sweet Life in Gulf of Morbihan
With its many islands and islets, its microclimate that warms the sea, and its sweet life, the Gulf of Morbihan is one of Brittany’s most beautiful landscapes to discover all year.
In this “little sea” – this is what the word “Morbihan” means – it is possible to sail or kayak to discover islands and islets protected from the vagaries of the ocean and some pretty Brittany coastal towns. Among the fifty or so islands of the Gulf, Île aux Moines is the largest and best known while the island of Arz is sailors’ favorite.
The Enchanted Brocéliande Forest
Inland, Brittany offers rugged hilly landscapes, as well as majestic ancient forests, such as the mysterious and dark Brocéliande forest. This is a very authentic place, the forest where the famous legends of King Arthur, Morgana, and Merlin were born.
During your walks in the shade of ancient trees, you will have the opportunity to see some remarkable sights like the Tomb of Merlin, or the Tomb of the Giant and the Fountain of Youth, specially designed to illustrate the Arthurian legends.
Brocéliande forest is very easy to visit on a day trip from Rennes, Brittany’s capital. For those without a car, we recommend taking a day tour.
Saint-Malo – The Corsair City
Saint-Malo is one of the most beautiful cities in Brittany, with an interesting past of sailors, sea explorers, and corsairs. It is an old port city, one of the main Breton ports, with high granite ramparts which dominate the English Chanel.
Take a tour of the ramparts to admire the view of the outer harbor, Dinard, the entrance to the Rance River, and the beautiful beaches of the Mole and Bon Secours and then on the islands of Grand Bé and Petit Bé. Then walk downtown to pay a visit to its Romanesque-Gothic cathedral and perhaps stop for a crêpe and a bowl of cider.
If the tide is low, walk to Chateaubriand’s tomb. Originally from Saint-Malo, the famous inventor of Romanticism, François René de Chateaubriand, is buried on the uninhabited island of Grand Bé which, at low tide, becomes a peninsula.
Saint-Malo is very easy to reach from Paris by train. Some people use beautiful Saint-Malo as a base camp to explore Mont Saint Michel, in Normandy, on a day trip.
Sail the Brest – Nantes Canal
Created in the first half of the 19th century and inaugurated by Napoleon III in 1858, the Nantes – Brest Canal connects these two cities through the valleys of the Erdre, Isac, Oust, Blavet, Doré, Kergoat, Hyères, and Alder. The Canal is the perfect place to spend a long weekend on a houseboat, at a cruising speed of 6km/h. On the way, admire its wonderful landscapes, dotted with castles and other interesting sights.
Hike the GR34 – Le Sentier des Douaniers
Last but not least, there is the GR34 (Le Sentier des Douaniers), a multi-day hike which borders all of Brittany’s coastline for over 2.000 kilometers.
This wonderful hike, which starts at the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel and ends in Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique), covers most of the coastal sites shown above. On the way, hikers cross 5 French departments while enjoying great views, lonely lighthouses, and some of the best towns in Brittany.
We could not finish this article without mentioning its cuisine. The Breton Cuisine is a fresh mix of mackerel and sardines, pork rillettes, and Breton pancakes. The Breton cooks with what he has on hand: flour, apples, pork, and butter. Lots of butter. Perhaps this does not sound very sexy but despite that, Brittany has forged a true culinary identity in France.
Being bathed by the Chanel and the Atlantic Ocean, Brittany obviously offers a large choice of fish and seafood. To have a taste of it, order the Breton lobster, clams and mussels, or a plate of oysters with shallot sauce.
Apart from the fish and seafood, the list of regional specialties includes:
- Meat: Kig ha-farz (a dish of meats stewed in buckwheat stuffing, like a pot-au-feu);
- Vegetables: Artichokes, cauliflower,
- Crêpes and galettes: Breton crêpes, Breton galettes, sausage galettes;
- Cheese: Emmental
- Desserts: Far Breton (a flan-style custard cake), Breton cake, Kouign amann (a layered, buttery pastry), and pound cake.
Brittany is not the best region for wine travel but the cider, the Breton beer and some of its liquors won’t disappoint you.
We hope that you enjoyed the main places to visit in Brittany. If you want to learn about other regions head to this article on the Regions of France, where we have summarized the highlights of each region.
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